Atlanta II: Round 33 preview

* Jeff Gordon And Richard Petty Recognized This Weekend * Jimmie Johnson Posts Seventh Win Of The Season * Atlanta Features Fast Track Conditions * Final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Test At Atlanta Next Week Gordon Returns To Site Of His First...

* Jeff Gordon And Richard Petty Recognized This Weekend
* Jimmie Johnson Posts Seventh Win Of The Season
* Atlanta Features Fast Track Conditions
* Final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Test At Atlanta Next Week

Gordon Returns To Site Of His First NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Start

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 23, 2007) -- Fifteen years ago next month at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of this Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500, a legendary era of NASCAR racing was coming to a close while a new chapter was being ushered in.

Looking back on it now, the fall race at Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1992 was quite a historic event. Seven-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Richard Petty took the checkered flag for the final time in his storied career, while 21-year-old rookie driver Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet) made his first career start in NASCAR's top racing series. That afternoon saw "The King" make his 1,185th and final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start, spanning a 35-year career of racing that featured a record 200 victories. It didn't matter that Petty finished 35th that day or that Gordon finished 31st.

Fast forward 15 years and Gordon's legend continues to evolve. The current points leader in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is seeking his fifth series championship and the 82nd victory of his career as the circuit heads to this ultra-fast 1.54-mile oval located on the outskirts of Atlanta.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will recognize Petty and Gordon at this Sunday's event. Gordon will serve as the Grand Marshal, while Petty will be in the role of the Honorary Starter. The race is also the 15th anniversary of one of NASCAR's most memorable races, as the 1992 championship battle came down to a slim 10-point deficit with Alan Kulwicki edging out Bill Elliott for the title.

"Looking back on that race in November, 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was a race that will always be a significant part of NASCAR history," said Petty.

"It's an honor to give the command prior to the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- the track where my NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career began 15 years ago," said Gordon. "For the first time, the entire crowd may actually cheer for something I did."

Gordon is in the throes of putting together one of the finest seasons of his stellar career. He enters the sixth event in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with a 53-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Gordon has posted six wins this year and his 81 victories are sixth best all-time. With two victories and five top fives through the first six races in the Chase, Gordon has clearly established himself as the man to beat for the 2007 title.

"We're always trying to gain, but if we can't gain, then we want to maintain or keep it to a minimum," said Gordon following his third-place finish last Sunday at Martinsville. "I'm excited about going to Atlanta. It's a good track for us; there are a lot of good tracks left for us. Any top-five finish, in my opinion, is a good one right now."

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Notebook, Week 7

Jimmie Johnson Closes Gap ... Jimmie Johnson picked up his series-leading seventh win of the season last Sunday at Martinsville and closed the gap between first and second place to 53 points. It was Johnson's 30th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory and his third straight and fourth overall at Martinsville. Johnson owns a pair of wins at Atlanta, including the race this past March.

Tony Stewart Excels At Atlanta ... Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) is a two-time winner at AMS and is the defending race champion. Stewart also has seven top fives and 11 top 10s at this track. Stewart finds himself in fourth place in the Chase, 249 points out of first and 134 points behind third-place driver Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet).

Carl Edwards Loves This Race Track ... Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) says Atlanta Motor Speedway is "a fun race track." Edwards has a pair of wins here (swept both events in 2005), with the March race of that season being his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory. Edwards currently sits in fifth place in the Chase, trailing fourth-place Stewart by just 36 points.

More On Gordon ... Jeff Gordon has four career wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- the most among this year's Chase drivers. Gordon's first victory at AMS came in 1995 and his last win here came in 2003. Gordon has also posted 12 top fives, 18 top 10s and has sat on the pole once at AMS. Gordon has been in the top 12 for all 32 weeks of the season thus far and has claimed six victories, posted 20 top fives and 26 top 10s on the year.

Teams To Test New Car At Atlanta Next Week

Following Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will participate in the seventh and final NASCAR-sanctioned test of the 2007 season. It takes place Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 29-30 at Atlanta. Teams will test from 9 a.m. -- 5 p.m. (ET) each day, with a lunch break scheduled from 12 noon until 1 p.m. Driver media availability will be posted later this week on NASCARmedia.com.

Next week's session replaces the test that was originally scheduled at Dover International Speedway, May 14-15, but was cancelled due to inclement weather moving the race at Darlington back a day.

This will be the first full-scale series test for the new car at a 1.5-mile track. The new car will race 16 times this season and will compete fulltime in 2008. The 16th and final new-car event will be Nov. 11 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Atlanta test will be the fourth this season dedicated solely to the new car. Previous tests with the new car were conducted at Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.

"This will be the first opportunity for everyone to be on that size track at the same time with those speeds," said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. "It's also the first opportunity for some new combinations of drivers and crew chiefs to work together."

#@Roush Fenway Racing Teams Following World Series

The Roush Fenway Racing stable of drivers have kept a keen eye on the Major League Baseball playoffs -- especially the stunning comeback the Boston Red Sox made to clinch a trip to their second World Series in four years.

Carl Edwards for one, has gotten some inspiration from the Red Sox beating-the-odds storyline. The Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians and move on to the Fall Classic, where they will take on the upstart Colorado Rockies. Now Edwards looks to close a 285-point deficit in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

"I think it's great the way the Red Sox came back to beat the Indians," said Edwards. "I was watching Manny Ramirez's interview after the game and he said 'we worked hard and never gave up' -- that was great and really inspiring. With that attitude and drive I have no doubt that the Sox will win the World Series."

Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) plans to catch Game 1 at Fenway Park. "As part of Roush Fenway Racing, I'm not only excited for the whole Red Sox organization, but also for my friend Josh Beckett," said McMurray. "Hopefully, I can make it up to Wednesday's game and cheer them on."

Only Six Points Separate 34th and 35th Place In Owner Points

A mere six points separates the 34th and 35th place teams in this week's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series owner points.

The No. 45 American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge owned and driven by Kyle Petty sits in the 34th position with 2,511 points. Right on his heels is the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota, owned by Bill Davis and driven by Dave Blaney in the 35th spot.

The top 35 teams in the owner standings are guaranteed automatic starting spots each week. Other teams must earn their berths based on qualifying speeds.

The 36th position is held by the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford team, owned by Glen Wood and driven by former series champion Bill Elliott. That team is currently 142 points out of the top 35.

The No. 66 Best Buy Chevrolet team, owned by Joe Custer, made a driver change earlier this week. Jeremy Mayfield, who has been driving for Bill Davis Racing this year, signed a deal on Monday to drive the No. 66 in the four remaining NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races this season in addition to all of the 2008 season. Mayfield replaces Jeff Green.

Keys To Victory

Atlanta Motor Speedway

* Jimmie Johnson: "Atlanta is one of the more intense tracks we race at, so you have to be comfortable with going fast there. You've got to be comfortable with running right next to the wall at Atlanta."

* Carl Edwards: "Atlanta is a fun race track. The key to winning at Atlanta may be making sure your car is making a lot of grip in the center of the corner. It's so fast there; if the car's not comfortable and easy to drive it can make that place a nightmare. My key in practice is making the car easy to drive."

* Crew chief Chad Knaus: "Atlanta is one of the coolest races that we go to at the end of the year. The race track is very big and very wide. The drivers actually have the opportunity to run down at the bottom and then as their tires begin to fall off, they can begin to run up top. What you have to keep in mind is that this is such a big race track, that when you run down at the bottom, your fuel mileage is going to be better than when you run on the high side of the track because you make the diameter of the track so much bigger just by going to the high side. That affects your fuel mileage and your pit strategy."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Jeff Green , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Richard Petty , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Chad Knaus , Dave Blaney , Alan Kulwicki
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing